The first time I visited this incredible Devon farm, on driving through the entrance, I paused for a second and question if I had arrived at the right location. There were no Turkeys to greet me, and instead rows upon rows, upon rows, of breathtakingly beautiful cider orchards.
It was a sunny September day, the bees hummed vigorously in the background as they flitted from tree to tree. The grass glistened with conspicuous seasonal dew, making the orchard sparkle and dance in the golden harvest light.
It wasn’t long before I heard the unmistakable, characterful sound of Turkeys, the coos and calls filling the quiet air, providing an alternative soundtrack to the hum of busy bees.
Jason, followed by a rather lovely dog, greeted me warmly and we set off on foot, meandering down the track, flanked by trees ladened with fruit of reds, oranges and yellows.
He told me the names of the many varieties of cider apple that are grown on the farm, some properly ancient, some that sound like a name you would only find in Devon. We stopped by a crooked tree and he ushered me to take a bite out of a mostly red, perhaps slightly blotchy apple. It didn’t look anywhere near as inviting as Snow White’s pristine rosey apple, so I assumed, what’s the worst that could happen? As I bit into the crisp flesh, my mouth filled with the texture of a thousand miles of desert, all moisture being sucked from my mouth into the entering fruit. “Tremletts Bitter” he chuckled “One bite of one of those and you won’t be wanting another one in a hurry!” - hilarious. He then went on to tell me that while “not an eater” this is one of the very best apples for making proper Devon cider due to its high level of tannins.
As we continued on through acres and acres of picturesque pasture, the calls of the Turkeys became more pronounced. We reached the brow of the hill and there they were, a sea of shining bronze coats, floating, flapping, pecking and picking at windfall apples beneath the trees.
When I was younger, it was tradition in our family to play ‘apple bobbing’ around the time of Halloween. I fancied myself quite the expert, being able to bring up a rather decent haul by the end of my turn. It’s safe to say, I met my match. This flock of seasonally attired birds, with their gothic black outfits, had nailed the challenge. Using their sharp beaks to manoeuvre the fruit from the tree branch or the floor, with speed, grace and ease. They were so focussed on the prized fruit, they didn’t pay us much mind as we wandered amongst them.
It’s safe to say the birds on this farm are truly content.
Jason is passionate about the welfare of his turkeys, wanting to provide them with as close as he can to a turkeys natural habitat. The trees are incredibly important in this objective, as are grassy pastures for the birds to run around and merrily flap their wings. At night they are housed in straw bedded barns with natural light and plenty of space. The pasture is surrounded by a tall, protective fence, keeping the turkeys safe from any visits from Mr Fox.
His mission is to rear the birds as self-sufficiently as possible, using the waste from the main crop of apples in the form of ‘windfalls’ as part of their diet. In addition the birds are fed a locally grown mixed cereal food, whole wheat and oats that are produced on a neighbouring farm. Straw for bedding is also purchased from a neighbour, keeping a thriving local economy and avoiding wasted ‘food miles’.
Once the Turkeys have reached maturity they are killed on the farm, plucked by hand and hung to tenderises the meat and allow the full flavour of the bird to develop.
68-acres of heavenly farmland in Devon is the home of one of our flocks of our Properly Free Range Pipers Farm Turkeys. Working with farmers like Jason, fills us with a deep sense of joy, knowing we are able to support this brilliant sustainable enterprise to produce food to be proud of.
When you are choosing your Turkey this year, you can rest assured that your bird has had the very best life and has been reared with real care. As many of you have commented over the years, not wanting to plagiarise a certain retail outfit, but you really can, actually, taste the difference.